There are two types of oral contraception:
- One is the combined oral contraceptive pill (that also comes in a patch or a ring), this has 2 hormones in it (oestrogen and progesterone) and works by suppressing ovulation (stops an egg being released).
- The other is a progestogen only pill, the most common one used is desogestrel (commonly known as cerazette) this also works by suppressing ovulation, there are also other progestogen only pills called ‘mini pills’.
- The ‘mini pills’ work by changing the environment in the vagina to make it hostile to sperm, so need to be taken at the exact time (give or take 3 hours) for them to work effectively.
If pills are taken correctly they are more than 99% effective (that means only 1 in 100 people would get pregnant using them), but the issue is they are reliant on being taken at the correct time, and that you have not been unwell with any diarrhoea or vomiting or on any medication that may affect how quickly the drugs are broken down.
More effective methods of contraception are the LARCs (long-acting methods of contraception) such as the coil, implant and contraceptive injections these have a 1 in 200 risk of pregnancy.
If you do forget to take your pill or are unwell with diarrhoea and vomiting and then have sex, you may need emergency contraception.
Risks with taking the pill
There are some risks associated with taking the combined oral contraceptive pill that may prevent us from being able to give it to you.The pill increases your risk of blood clots and breast cancer.
If you are very overweight with a BMI of >35; suffer with high blood pressure; suffer with migraines particular those where you have an aura (warning) before hand; are a smoker >35years old; have a strong family history of breast cancer or blood clots; are over 50 years of age we would offer you the progesterone only pill as it does not carry these risks.
If you are on medication for epilepsy or infections like TB these may interfere with your pill so please check with your GP if you start any new medication. Also St John’s Wort a herbal treatment for depression can affect how well the pill works.
Side effects from the pill
Often patients can get side effects from the pill, if you find that the pill affects your mood, weight, skin or you feel sick and have breast tenderness please let us know. Frequently the side effects settle but if not there are lots of different pills we can try to see which suits you best.
Sometimes people can get irregular bleeding with the pill, particularly the progesterone only, again please contact the surgery to discuss this if it is an issue.
For more information on the pills please go to: https://www.sexwise.fpa.org.uk/contraception/combined-pill-coc
How to get started on the pill
If you are interested in starting the contraceptive pill please contact the surgery for a consultation. Once you are happy on it we can put it on repeat prescription for you, but you will need an annual BP and weight check and to complete our online form to ensure your medical history has not changed and it is safe for you to use it still.
New guidance came out in 2019 advising there are 'New ways to take the pill' for further information please listen to this podcast or read the leaflet on this link.
‘New ways to take the pill’ podcast and leaflet